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(Opinion) The New Big Brother: Are Tech Companies Beginning To Control Speech?

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Owing to the lockdown, the Big Five Tech companies generated huge profits, and it started a debate on how powerful they are.

Who Are The Big Five Tech And How Significant Are They?

The pandemic has exacerbated the dependence on social media and made it a necessity now.

The Big Five tech companies — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google account for 17.5% of the whole S&P 500 and net worth of $5 trillion.

The pandemic has exacerbated the dependence on social media and made it a necessity now. The government, leaders and institutions are using it aggressively and communicating with their audiences in this time of need through social media. This necessity has given power and control to the big tech companies which are turning hegemonic.

What Did They Do?

Image: Twitter

The discussion started with the ban of American president Donald Trump when he was accused of encouraging his followers to invade the Capitol complex. He was still in the president’s office and a series of action was taken against him.

  • Twitter permanently banned Trump.
  • Facebook banned him for an indefinite time.
  • Google, Apple and Amazon took strict actions against Parler, which is a popular social network for extremists. This is the same platform where the planning and execution of the Capital complex attack took place.
  • Youtube, a Google subsidiary, introduced a policy to ban all videos which claim election fraud in the U.S.
  • Twitch, an Amazon subsidiary, banned Trump’s account.

Maybe the action can be justified, but it brings out many more issues with it. It indicates the reach and power of these companies in global public conversations. The influence of these tech giants to define and limit free speech has shown a large trend on the internet. The power to limit free speech has shifted from the autocratic government to the new superpower of the big five.

More importantly, these are some of the biggest political contributors too in the U.S. elections. After the Capitol Hill attack in Washington, D.C., Facebook and Google announced to stop political spendings. Apple and Microsoft suspended donations to lawmakers. This brings out how these Tech companies can influence the whole world towards their cause.

The Monopoly Report


After 16 months of investigation, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee said, “The tech giants have turned from scrappy, underdog startups to monopolies which we had seen in the oil barons era.”

The following are the observations made in the investigation report:

  • Facebook has monopolised the social network market with the data advantage to “acquire, copy or destroy” the initial threats.
  • Google has monopolised online searching and advertising with a whole system of crushing competitors.
  • Amazon has significant market power in the arena of online shopping.
  • Apple used its power through its play store by giving undue advantage to its own offerings.


If this hegemony continues, these handfuls of tech giants with their reach and ability to manipulate and shape markets will provide themselves with unrestricted reign. The big tech platforms with a few tweaks can easily come up with information about people who have a certain political ideology and the strategy to influence or target them.

Back Home

Modi Twitter Account
Modi has the highest number of followers on Twitter and Facebook.

In the 2014 Loksabha elections, for the first time in Indian history, we witnessed social media’s power in influencing people, politics, and the electorate. Modi was the front runner of this virtual political domain. After gauging social media’s reach and power, now, every political party spends 2–5% of its election budget on social media.

The BJP spends around 500 crores while Congress spends around 400 crores. Modi has the highest number of followers on Twitter and Facebook. Facebook has a user base of 93 million, while Twitter has nearly 33 million in India.

The Big Brother

These online platforms provide a whole different universe customised with our likes, dislikes, hopes, aspirations and many more things. We live in this virtual world with our online friends who share the same belief system as us. The conventional superpowers can’t provide the flexibility and accessibility to get millions of people on board, but the new Big Five superpower can bring a whole customised world according to every minute detail of your life on your phone screen.

In George Orwell’s 1984, the big brother implied to the government which had an eye over everything and used to manipulate minds. Now, this position is acquired by the Big Five in this era. Always remember, Big Tech is watching you.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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